A beginner’s glossary for the Asphalt Navy

It’s almost spring (I can tell by the things that go blowing by. Things like large rocks. Or small kids.) This is the time of year I think about hitting the road — and used to do that when gasoline prices still started with $1.0-something. Now I just stay home and read things I wrote (several years ago) about hitting the road — things like this.

& OK, I ‘fess up. I’m a member of the Asphalt Navy.

I went off and bought an RV. That’s the acronym for Realbig Vehicle.

Mine’s not an MHRV. Those initials apply to the Motorhome Version of the RV, and stand for Mammoth Humongous Realbig Vehicle. I may be nuts, but I’m not totally wacko. If I wanted to drive a bus I’d apply at the Regional Transportation District.

To be specific, I bought an FWRV. That stands for Fifth Wheel Realbig Vehicle. Everybody asks me what “Fifth Wheel” actually means. I actually don’t know. But I do know that it allows me to unhook it, cast it off, de-tether, abandon it, forget it. It gives me the glorious option of going off for a drive in my pick-up truck (PUT), with nothing trailing along behind me except some diesel smoke. That means I have far, far fewer nightmares than the driver of an MHRV which, in case you’d forgotten, stands for Mammoth, Humongous, Realbig Vehicle.

The next time you see the driver of an MHRV in the middle of, say, Boston, pray for him. Shed a tear for him. Realize that there, but for the grace of God, goes you. Know, without the slightest doubt, that the possessor of that little head with the clenched jaw and furrowed brow behind those big windows dearly wishes, at that moment, that he, too, was the owner of an FWRV that is parked somewhere else.

One summer, I parked my FW in Plymouth, Mass. and drove my PUT to downtown Boston. Driving in Boston is not too bad, especially if you’ve grown up driving blindfolded in the back alleys of Liverpool.

In fact, pulling an FWRV isn’t too bad, as long as you’re going forward. Trouble is, you’re not always able to go that way. Sometimes, you will find yourself in an RV campground that is not blessed with Pull Through Locations (PTLs), which are also known to drivers of FWRVs as Manna From Heaven (MFH) or Thank You God (TYG).

PTLs are spots in RV campgrounds that allow you to drive forward to the place where you park your FWRV for the night, and then drive forward to leave in the morning. MFH.

No backing necessary. TYG.

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a campground equipped with Back-In Campsites (BICs – an acronym for Born-out-of-wedlock Inconsiderate Concoctions), you will usually find that you attract volunteer helpers in the manner and speed that swamps attract mosquitoes.

When you arrive at your BIC and swing your Realbig Vehicle into the position that will allow you to begin the process of backing in, you will see in your rear-view mirrors people waving their arms. These individuals all arrived at the RV camp long before you, and have already hooked up their sewer and their water and their electricity and their cable tv, taken the pooch for a p&p in the nearby dog run, and set up their folding chairs and opened their beers. By the time you get there, they are sitting in their folding chairs, sipping suds and watching the dog sniff around the legs of the picnic table. In other words, these people are desperate for something to do.

So, unasked and unwanted, they appear in your rear-view mirrors, dressed in olive jump suits with big pockets, gold-clipped expandable belts, and tennis shoes with Velcro strips.

In the right side rear-view mirror, you will see somebody pointing to the right, which, with an FWRV, means turning the steering wheel to the left. That’s confusing enough, but when you look in the left side rear-view mirror, you will see more people. One will be pointing to the left, which, of course, is greatly confusing. Another will be displaying some sort of hand signal that makes no sense at all, possibly because he is simply reaching behind his neck to scratch a newly acquired mosquito bite. At the first hesitation from the PUT driver, everyone starts yelling conflicting directions, none of which are heard because the PUT is equipped with a diesel engine, which drowns out all sounds, including large formations of  low-flying military jets.

The oft-repeated scene usually ends with the driver slamming the PUT into Park, flinging open the door, jumping out, calmly walking back to the volunteers and politely telling them to:

1. Go to hell, or

2. Go back to watching their dog sniff the legs of the picnic tables.

Then the driver, after three or four attempts to get the PUT to navigate the FWRV into the BIC at a proper angle — accompanied by quantities of cussing and kicking and slamming of doors — gets the damn thing parked.

The episode casts a gloom over the camp that lasts until everyone has had their third or fourth beer. In time, moods settle, and most of the drivers doze in their folding chairs, reeking of mosquito repellent and dreaming of PTLs.

& I’m outta here.

Originally published 2001

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